Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax Station’

A Tandem Ride at Burke Lake Park

A Tandem Ride at Burke Lake Park

I am still taking some time off from work after the holidays.  And as I’ve written previously in this blog, weekends, holidays and other time off from work provide ideal opportunities to venture away from the city and explore any one of the many local, regional and state parks in the D.C. metro area. For this ride, I took my oldest daughter along and we enjoyed a tandem ride at Burke Lake Park.

Burke Lake Park is located off Interstate 95, approximately a half an hour south of D.C., at 7315 Ox Road in Fairfax Station, Virginia (MAP). The public park is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, and was built on 888 acres of land that had been purchased by the Federal government in the 1950s for an international airport. However, when the site where Dulles Airport is now located was chosen as a replacement, the land was developed by Fairfax County as a public park.

The park is open from sunrise to sunset and offers a myriad of activities, including a miniature train, carousel, outdoor volleyball courts, open fields, Frisbee golf, horse shoe pits, an ice cream parlor, picnic areas with grills, three playgrounds, an amphitheater, camping, and a marina and boat rentals for enjoying the main feature of the park, a 218-acre lake owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The park also includes a miniature golf course, as well as an 18-hole par-three golf course, a driving range, and a clubhouse with snack bar.

As if all of these amenities were not already enough, Burke Lake Park also boasts one of the ten best fitness trails in the nation, as named by the American Hiking Society.  The Burke Lake Loop Trail follows the shoreline 4.7 miles around the lake, with bays jutting out from the main body of water that provide variations in the trail.  Gravel surfaced for most of its length, Burke Lake’s loop trail is not just suitable for walking and running, but is an excellent trail for biking as well.

The Burke Lake Trail Loop is one of the most scenic and enjoyable trails in the D.C. area.  The only thing that could make it better is enjoying it with someone special, like I did.

Fountainhead Regional Park

Fountainhead Regional Park

There are not a lot of choices for mountain biking which are actually in D.C. In fact, Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail in Anacostia is the only natural-surface trail within the city limits that allows mountain bikes. Seeking more challenging terrain for this Labor Day weekend ride, I decided to venture outside of D.C. to Fountainhead Regional Park in nearby Fairfax Station, Virginia.  Administered by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, it is located at 10875 Hampton Road (MAP), and is situated at the widest point of The Occoquan Reservoir, a 22-mile-long body of water straddling part of the boundary between Fairfax County and Prince William County, west of Alexandria.

Fountainhead Regional Park is perfect for fishing for largemouth bass and catfish, or simply relaxing on the calm waters. The park offers a ramp for private boat launching, marina facilities, as well as canoe, kayak and Jon boat rentals. On land, the park also offers a handicap accessible fishing pier, as well as a picnic area with shelter, and a no-frills, 18-hole, par-36 miniature golf course. With the trailhead located in the park, Fountainhead also serves as one of the major access points for the popular Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, which givers hikers and horseback riders (no bikes allowed) the chance to discover more than 4,000 acres of scenic woodlands along the 17-mile trail.

But the real draw of Fountainhead, at least for me, is the park’s mountain bike trails, which include some of the most challenging trails in the mid-Atlantic region. Fountainhead Regional Park offers 4.5 miles of single track mountain-biking trails, composed of two loops and an out and back, that are accessible year-round. Comprised of beginner, intermediate, and expert sections (coded and marked by green, blue, and black), it is also directional so you won’t have to worry about someone coming at you from the opposite direction. Depending on the portion of the trail where you’re riding, expect to encounter a little bit of everything, including some seriously steep hill climbs, fast downhill descents, and flowing rhythm sections. There are also enough banked turns, bridges, and ledges to keep your eyes locked on the trail ahead of you and your adrenaline level up.

Nestled in a hilly and dense forest setting, the seclusion of the trails can make you forget that you are just minutes away from D.C. and the heavy traffic of Interstate 95 leading back to the city. The trail is well maintained, and updates on trail openings and closings, as well as current conditions, are always readily available on the park’s Facebook page or by calling the park. I highly recommend the park, especially for its challenging mountain biking trails.

However, I’d also offer a word of caution.  Know your own limitiations.  The trail is located within a mountain environment, and requires alertness, common sense, and caution.  Changing weather conditions, variations or steepness of the terrain, natural and man-made obstacles, and other dangers or conditions that may be encountered are inherent risks that are part of the challenges of mountain biking.  So be careful, and always ride within your own ability.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]